All posts by Noel

“What the Bible Says About Secrets”

The article “What the Bible Says about Secrets,” by James Martin explains how privacy is described and illustrated in the Bible and the way people have interpreted that. Martin mentions how one of the first interventions of God into human history relates to privacy when Adam and Eve are naked and clothe themselves with fig leaves and hide for privacy. There are many interpretations of various Bible verses regarding privacy but it is not specifically addressed frequently.

People also use privacy in their relationship and practices of religion. Many spirituals recommend a private relationship with God “over and against more public displays of piety.” This includes praying in secret and to one’s self. Yet, at the same time, it is said in the Bible by Jesus, ” What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light, and what is whispered in your ear, proclaim to the housetops.” This can send a confusing and unclear message to people. People that do believe you should be public about your beliefs include the notion that one should expose people taking part in “works of darkness.” It is described that privacy is actually equated to darkness.

I find it interesting how one can juggle the task of having a private relationship with God but also being public and vocal about his message and morals to other people. I’m curious as to how people maintain that private relationship whilst fulfilling what they believe to be their duties as a Christian.

Supreme Court Stays Execution of Buddhist Inmate

In the article, “Supreme Court Stays Execution of Buddhist Inmate,” by Adam Liptak, it is described how the execution of a Buddhist inmate in Texas was denied his request for his spiritual advisor to be present in the execution chamber on the basis that Texas policy only allows a state-employed Christian or Muslim religious advisers present in the execution room, not Buddhists or advisers of any other religion.

The article goes on to discuss how when Murphy, the inmate, asked to allow his religious advisor to be present at the execution that a prison official responded that only prison employees are allowed in the execution chamber. Texas officials justifies this policy by saying that it is based on security considerations; that to have an untrained visitor to the execution chamber could succumb to a multitude of consequences such as irrational behavior, pulling lines out of the inmate, taunting witnesses and so on.

This case presents a great nuance in the justice system of what is considered the line between religion and state. Furthermore, it presents the discrimination of one religion against the upholding of others which is obviously contradictory to the U.S. Constitution’s freedom of religion.

It is fascinating to see how such a specific case includes so many interdisciplinaries with religion such as  state policy, societal norms, and prison protocol. It shows how there are still many issues that our country faces with the intersection of state and religion and it can be argued to a certain degree that our government is institutionalized to uphold a Christian faith.

Here is the article to read more.

U.K. Rejects Asylum Claim based off Bible Verse

In the article, “Rejecting Asylum Claim, U.K. Quotes Bible to Say Christianity Is Not ‘Peaceful.” by Anna Schaverien from the New York Times, it is described how the U.K.’s Home Office rejected and asylum seeker by an Irania national who said he converted to Christianity because it was a “peaceful” religion.

Home Office responded to the asylum seeker’s claim by arguing that Christianity was hardly “peaceful” and used verse from the books of Leviticus, Exodus, and Revelation to prove it. An asylum seeker is someone who left their home country as a political refugee and is seeking protection under another. Immigration advocates were appalled and enraged by Home Office’s harsh methods which does not seem to be the first instance in which something like this has occurred.

Furthermore, the article describes how it wasn’t clear whether the man made his conversion to Christianity a basis for his claim or if the Home Office scrutinized this part of his life. The Home Office did not deny that this statement was an official document but have tried to distance themselves from the decision because of the backlash they received.

This case is a stunning example of the opposing side of secularization where the government has actually used religion as means of justification for their decision. It is interesting to recognize how other countries are still using religion integrally in their government system and how society is reacting to those decisions.

Here is the link to the article to read more!

Police Protection at Churches

The article from Time magazine, “Religious Leaders Fear Armed Guards Must Now Become the Norm After the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting” by Katie Reilly discusses many religious places of worship have proposed and take action in getting regular professional security personnel after many shootings have occurred at churches.

Reilly mentions how the New Reform Temple in Kansas City, Missouri hasn’t hosted a single service without an armed off-duty officer present for the last 4 years ever since white supremacists killed three people outside a Jewish community center.

It is interesting and saddening to read of how temples, churches, and synagogues are now and have slowly been implementing more security breaches due to tragic violent events that have occurred at religious organizations. It is also interesting to hear  what the priest, preachers, and rabbis have to say about the gun policies regarding this issue. Some have stated that stricter gun laws would create an impact on preventing these shootings. Furthermore, some state that they want to push back on having armed guards at their places of worship since they believe that should not have to worry about the situation.

Politics and religion is perceived by many people as something that should be separate or that is separate yet there seems to be an abundance of situations where these two overlap and intertwine and how one is used in the other. Furthermore, there is much correlation between people’s religious affiliations and political party affiliation.

Here is the article below.

“Why Morality Makes Us Free” Article

The article “Why Morality Makes Us Free,” by Martin Hägglund in the New York Times discusses how the heart of spiritual life stems from Buddhism since it recognizes that life is our purpose instead of nirvana or heaven. He goes on to discuss how salvation in Buddhism is simply to be able to have an end to life instead of eternity.

This article made me think about how religion in many people’s live is based off of being able to have a “better life” when they leave this Earth. It is fascinating for me to realize how people dedicate time, money, energy and resources into their religion in the daily lives that they are currently in, in order to achieve so other worldly place such as nirvana or heaven. From a personal perspective, recognizing my biases, it is puzzling to understand why people dedicate their lives to a future unknown. Yet, from a sociologist perspective it makes sense that one’s religious beliefs are to be respected in their entirety as most do deal with great faith.

I am curious as to how many people who follow Buddhism, thinks about their “life after death” or is it insignificant thought?

Here is the link to the article below.

United Methodist Church Votes to Strengthen Bans on Same Sex Marriage and Gay Clergy

In an article by TIME news, it is explained how the United Methodist Church votes to strengthen bans on same sex marriage and gay clergy. This church, which is America’s second-largest Protestant denomination, recently met at the end of February of this year 2019, to discuss the strengthening the faith’s divisive bans. There seemed to be an about even split in the church between the percentage of delegates that supported the ban and delegates that did not. Many Reverends around the nation and the globe stated how this so-called “Traditional Plan” is going to hurt and negatively impact the Church significantly. One went so far to even say that the church “will lose an entire generation of leaders in America.” The intention behind the “Traditional Plan” is to increase the discipline against those engaged in defiance creating a more hostile, divisive environment. Even though, as TIME news points out, the Methodist church has increased in pro-LGBT clergy the ban remains strong and in place.

It is interesting to recognize why and to what extent this decision is a reflection of the church’s values. There appears to be a great tension and divide in the church even though this ban has been apart of the church for years now, yet just with no enforcement. I’m curious as to what prompted this movement to greater enforcement when it seems like it would do more harm than good. This is a significant example of how religion and modern progressive ideas clash.

Liberal & Conservative Religious Groups

In Chapter 7 of Chaves’ book, “American Religion: Contemporary Trends,” he discusses out when discussing religious differences, people naturally think about the differences between “Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and more recently, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others,” yet there is a division even within these groups which is between liberals and conservatives. Chaves continues to explain how the label liberals and conservatives are often grossly generalized and how it is difficult to fully take notice to the complexity of the two.

This point brought the question to mind of how many churches, temples, synagogues and other congregations do we assume are liberal or conservative based on the stereotype society has created for each religion? Is there truth to the stereotypes of the religion or are they misunderstood? Furthermore, I think its important to analyze how this even can vary from person to person in a congregation. Yet, it is also significant to recognize any themes there might be among people of a certain religion and analyze how their religious beliefs might or might not align with their political beliefs. This also brings up the question of can you have political beliefs that are separate and different from one’s religious beliefs? How much does one affect the other?

The class thus far has made me realized the personal bias, assumptions, and preconceived notions I had about religion and certain religions. Taking a more sociological perspective has helped me realize the value and varying differences each religion can have.

Southern Baptist Churches Hired Accused Ministers

In a U.S. News report, titled “Southern Baptist Churches Hired Accused Ministers,” it was recorded that more than two dozen Southern Baptist church leaders had faced sexual misconduct charges, but churches employed them anyway. The article goes on to explain how the largest coalition of Baptist churches in the U.S. has refused proposed reforms and hired at least 35 Southern Baptist pastors, youth ministers, and volunteers despite their being convicted of sex crimes or accused of sexual misconduct.

Looking at this news through a sociological lense, it is interesting to note how a certain religion has differentiating set of values and beliefs than what many of the rest of society do. To explain, institutes would not accept people with history of convictions for sex crimes or sexual misconduct due to the morality and possible danger they could be putting other people in,  yet a church has decided to ignore the past convicted crimes of certain people and accept them into their church. What does this action show to the rest of society? Are the people of Souther Baptist church simply accepting and forgiving to those who have done what most would call wrong? Or do these people not care about people’s wrongdoings and they don’t necessarily matter in their religion? There are many ways to evaluate and interpret this news and its effects on society.

More questions that I would be interested in knowing are how do the people associated with the religion support their decisions they have made and what is to be said about what their beliefs are as a religion? What subcultures and underlying themes are there associated with this church?

Here is the link to the article to read more.

Does Religion increase Happiness?

In a U.S. News article by Alexa Lardieri, they discuss and analyze the statistics of actively religious people reporting higher levels of happiness than people who are not religious.

Lardieri mentions:

“A Pew Research Center study of people in 26 countries published on Thursday found that participating members of religious congregations report higher levels of happiness than people who are not part of a congregation, with people in Mexico reporting the highest levels of happiness.”

They go on to explain how there is a trend of 71 percent of actively religious members saying the are very happy, compared to the 61 percent who are not affiliated across the 26 countries researched. This is an interesting finding to me because the question comes to mind is that does religious beliefs and followings make people happier or is it the community and people that make people happier? To what part of religion exactly does religion contribute to one’s happiness? Furthermore, the article discusses the possible relation of the percentage of people who drink and smoke frequently to those who do not and see similar patterns between the two that you would see with people who are religious  and people who are not. Does this mean the religion and drug and alcohol have to juxtapose or is there a middle ground and coming together of the two?

Below is the link to the article:

What does it mean to believe in God?

In Chapter 3 of Chaves’ book, “American Religion, Contemporary Trends,” he discusses how the statistic that up to 91 percent of Americans in 2014 believe in God or a higher power, was broken down and asked among survey takers. In the General Social Survey (GGS) there were four out of six boxes that people could check that would indicate they believe in God or a higher power. Those statements were:

  • I don’t believe in a personal God, but I do believe in a Higher Power of some kind.
  • I find myself believing in God some of the time, but not at other.
  • While I have doubts, I feel that I do believe in God.
  • I know God really exists and I have no doubts about it.

While I read these statements, I questioned how the people that checked one of these four options define God or a Higher Power in their lives and what it means to them to believe in one. For someone to believe in God or a Higher Power, is there some sort practice or participation in something that would fulfill and show that belief? If someone has a belief, but no action to support that belief is it discredited by society? For instance, if someone says they believe in God but they do not go church or subscribe to a certain religion, does that mean when other people look at this person they think they are to doubt their belief? It might seem reasonable to say that even if someone does not go to church they can still believe in God, but looking at it through a sociological perspective, doesn’t society base belief off of action instead of pure thought?

It is interesting to think about the complexity of how each individual’s situation might be who checked on those four boxes.